Cats and Dogs


Have both dogs and cats living together? Cat behavior posing a challenge for your dog training? Puppy suffering under dominant cat? - Solutions for this and much more you just found here!

Dog owners with both cats and dogs send us questions because they have a dog training problem or puppy training problem, or just as often a dog health problem, as regards their cat or cats. Here are a few.

Q&AMy Question: I have read your Puppy Development Guide cover to cover. Great resource! I can see how using all your suggestions would train a perfectly behaved dog if started from 3 months of age. We got our GSD Jack at 5 months this past November and have spent the past 2 months mucking it up. 1 month hiring an in-home dog trainer before we found your site/book. My question: Are there any modifications we need to make to your puppy techniques on an older puppy with bad habits already established?

Second question: We own two 8 years old cats. "Snow" let Jack know his place the first moment they met. "Storm" ran away and has lashed out, even getting aggressive towards Jack. What do we train Jack to do with this type of attacks? Jack has a sweet, playful side. We just need to get all of us through this, and he will be a great dog.
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Solution: No modifications needed, no. You can apply the same principles to dogs of any age, even to adult rescue dogs! Just be consistent with what you learned here.

As for your second question: In my experience, training dogs is way easier than training cats. If you feel the same with your cats, then focus on training your dog Jack, and only when you see a cat lashing out I would isolate her, same as I do with dogs. Isolation is the most gentle and effective way for behavior modification, for both dogs and cats. Although, with the cat I would show more of my anger/disappointment, so that she too understands that I am unhappy with how she behaved.

cat with GSDTo train your 7m old puppy Jack to deal with such cat attacks: Important now is to prevent that he suffers a cat trauma. If prevented, HE will naturally become the one who lashes out upon a cat attack when only he is older (feels stronger). To prevent a trauma, I would do for a while what I want Jack to do when being attacked: I would intervene when the cat lashes out, and I would chase the cat away/ into isolation and support Jack to stand his ground. Be visibly on Jack's side when chasing the cat to the other end/ into isolation, this is important!

There is still plenty of chance to get the cats and Jack like each other in the end. Now it's about preventing a trauma for Jack. So avoid that there are many repetitions of the cat's dominance/aggression. Let us know how it goes.

Q&AMy Question: I had to isolate my puppy for the first time because she will not leave the cat's food alone even though I have placed it on a higher shelf. It seemed to have gotten through to her, because she wouldn't go near the cat while she was eating tonight. However, she seemed depressed all night and didn't really seem to want to come near us. She stayed close, but not like she normally would. Is this a normal reaction to the Isolation training?

Solution: Isolation for scavenging the cat's food is fine if the puppy has done the same repetitively on the same day. If yesterday, and now today again, you could instead walk to the puppy and perform the Collar Freeze as a first measure. Isolation is the last resort.

If you isolated your puppy for the first time ever, then yes sure, she will feel unsure, that's normal indeed, and that's what she probably is, not depressed. For dogs the issue is boredom, not depression, since dogs do not have the level of self that people have. Just remember, as a child you felt unsure too when your parents gave you the first time-out.

"It seemed to have gotten through to her, because she wouldn't go near the cat while she was eating tonight." - Perfect, your puppy learns fast, unlike my new puppy (whose mental capacity is so unlike a German Shepherd). Nonetheless, you may need to remind your pup that she is misbehaving when she's approaching the cat's food the next time, else she'll forget today's experience.

You didn't mention your pup's age, but if you feel she will understand a decisive NO then I'd go with that the next time: Just face your puppy upon misconduct, freeze, look her in the eyes, and say a sharp NO combined with some consistent body language (I use a slow horizontal finger movement with the palm facing the dog, you can use what you want). If she understands your body language combined with the word NO, then you won't need the Collar Freeze nor Isolation for this misconduct.

cat climbingBut back to scavenging the cat's food: Unless you want the cat to practice agility... I wouldn't place the cat's food higher up. The quickest way for your puppy to learn is practice, so I'd leave the cat food where the cat normally eats, and I'd focus on training the puppy as per above a few more times. Obviously you can only do this if you're at home while the food is out for the cat.

I don't know what you feed your cat (and you're lucky, your dog isn't going after the cat litter), but for the ultra-sensitive German Shepherd puppy, scavenging cat food or other things is a health concern. Almost everytime my new puppy was scavenging something outdoors (he is off-leash), he got inflamed intestines: slimy semi-liquid stool.

Also remember here that many cats chew cud and drip saliva and even food particles back on the plate or wherever. If your puppy merely licks that, she'll likely get ill. So as a general rule: Always train the dogs in the house as per above to stay clear of all things cat: cat food, cat litter, and ideally even cat toys. Let us know how it goes.

Q&AMy Question: Hi there, quick question, we already had a black GSD who is now 13 months old, but recently (4 months ago) we took on a rescue male, 3 years old. He has a few issues!!!!!

Worst is his cat aggression. We actually think he has been taught to kill them, and we have 2 indoor cats!! I know your emails deal more with training than rehabilitation, but I was hoping you might have some advice. Or are we hoping for an outcome that is just not possible??

We love him dearly now, and him us, so rehoming him is just not an option. We HAVE to find a way to make this work. Thank you very much if you're able to reply, and any help is much appreciated. (Most people are saying its a lost cause).

gsd herding catSolution: You say "rescue male, 3yrs old. He has a few issues!!!!!" but you mention only the cat aggression, so let's focus on that. While it may be that your dog had been trained to kill cats before he ended up in a shelter, it is more likely that he has a trauma, and possibly not only relating to cats. It would have been very helpful had you mentioned the other "issues" that you noticed, because it would have given a clear picture what kind of trauma he has, and how to address it.

And no, no dog is a lost cause, be aware that the people who said that haven't even tried to rehabilitate your dog. Naysayers are naysayers because they haven't learned to deal with what they're facing (or more often, with what others are facing).

If your dog's trauma only manifests in cat aggression, then here's how I would address that:

  1. Assume that your rescue dog had no socialization at all. Just assume it. Start from the beginning. Socialize your dog systematically. If you don't know how, there is ample guidance and even checklists in the Puppy Development Guide, and as I always say, regardless of age initially a rescue dog is in many ways like a puppy, because everything in your family is new to the dog. So make particular use of the first 4 to 6 weeks where you have a unique chance to teach the rescue dog new things (the phase of facilitation).
  2. As regards cats (both indoors and outdoors), take it in steps to accustom your dog to the cats. Don't forget that you had the cats (and the other GSD) before you got the rescue dog, this makes it harder for your new dog to integrate. All the more if your cats use their body language "the cat way" to show the dog that they don't welcome him. This may all happen (or have happened) without that you observed it.
  3. I said, start from the beginning, and as for introducing your new dog to domestic cats this means: Introduce your dog to your domestic cats outside the house, as I have clearly written in the New Dog Checklist. According to your case description, step 3 there in my book will be your issue: "only once calm, we enter the house together". So, as your new dog is on-leash (step 2 in the book), you can - and must - do a lot of SSCD right there outside the house, with the cats close by: as close as you can with your new dog remaining calm.
  4. If during that dog-cat introduction outside the house dusk sets in while you are still struggling to keep your new dog calm with the cats at sniffing proximity, then in fact you may have to repeat this initial socialization the next day. In that case, today you have to separate the dog and cats when you bring your new dog inside the house. Rather separate dog and cats during the first days than risking animosity of any kind taking hold of either the cat(s) or the dog.
  5. Like I said, take it in steps, and you will succeed. You clearly rushed it all, or maybe you didn't introduce your new dog to the resident cats at all. While in some cases that may work, and the new dog and resident cat(s) get on well from the start, more often than not it requires systematic socialization of the new dog with the resident cat(s). You know, I wrote it in the New Dog Checklist for a reason, for good reason. Introducing a new dog, whether puppy or adult dog, always involves much more than what meets the human eye.

Let us know how it goes.


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    Hi I face the opposite situation - "White" (my cat) chases Bobo (my shepherd) and Bobo has become really fearful. How can I help him stand his ground?


    Sorry, never mind, I just used the menu lol, and found exactly what I needed, page dog fear, thanks!

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